NFL Players, United Way Partner to Reduce High School Dropout Rates
By: The Football Girl | Posted: June 22, 2012
Although Broncos tight end Virgil Green has only worked with new quarterback Peyton Manning for a few weeks, he considers Manning, not only just “the best quarterback in the last twenty years,” but a strong role model as well.
“Peyton makes everyone want to strive to be a leader,” Green said, ”We see what it’s like to be a true professional. That’s what I strive to be. He makes me want to be great.”
Green had the unique opportunity to do just this week as he represented the Broncos at the United Way’s Team NFL Youth Empowerment Summit, held in Washington D.C..
The three-day event featured eighteen college-educated NFL players, one representative per team (the other fourteen team reps were in minicamp), gathering to discuss improving academics and strategize about their ultimate goal, reducing the high-school dropout rate in half by 2018. According to Green, 49,000 U.S. students drop out of school per week. The players spent Tuesday and Wednesday participating in empowerment events at American University, and Thursday morning meeting with members of Congress on Capitol Hill.
The main program for Team NFL, which includes names such as Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, Giants defensive end Chris Canty and Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings, is a widespread recruitment campaign for mentors, readers and tutors. Team NFL is aiming to recruit 100,000 volunteers, about 3,000 per player, which amounts for 10% of United Way’s ultimate goal of one million. To help meet this number United Way has set up a user-friendly website where you can pick a player and join his “team.” The players have also be equipped with Team NFL recruitment cards to hand out along their travels. But most volunteers will likely be secured via social media. Bills safety George Smith currently leads all players with just over 1,000 recruits.
Not his personal cell, but a good way to have Cam Newton's business card. (Credit: Martin Dixon/United Way)
The Team NFL program is the brainchild of Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, a master altruist who has made education a central focus of his own foundation.
"The idea came up when I was talking with one of the heads of United Way worldwide,” Asomugha said. “We started talking about it about a year and a half ago. We knew that getting the NFL into it we would help to spread the word about what we were doing. I started calling some guys and seeing who could pick up to come by”
One of players Asomugha called and recruited for Team NFL, Jets left tackle, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, is so committed to promoting youth literacy he is releasing a children’s book next month. The central plot of the book, as Ferguson described it, is about going green.
“It starts with me coming back to my hometown to see my football team play in the championship game. The kids are frustrated because they have gone green but their opponents have better projects,” Ferguson explained. “I’m like ‘well, I wish I could help you’ so I magically shrink to a little ‘Brick. I help them through their issues and we have a lot of fun.”
Ferguson touts the important universality of education as “being a great foundation to explore other things.”
All eighteen players at the Empowerment Summit were paired with a local high school from their market, largely chosen for academic achievement. Green’s student, 17-year old senior Jody Davis may have benefitted most from the trip to D.C. At an impromptu talent show/rap competition Wednesday night among the students, Green encouraged Davis to get up and rap after many of the East Coast had taken turns. The shy Davis was intent on sitting out until Green offered him two tickets to a Broncos game. Once Davis took the stage, Green was so awed by what he called “amazing lyrical, Intellectual hip hop,” he immediately called a music producer friend back in Denver.
(Credit: Martin Dixon/United Way)
To learn more about the United Way/Team NFL partnership and view all 32 player representatives, check out the official site.
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